Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series about successful programs expanding in The City University of New York community college system.
When Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) was introduced to 1,100 students at The City University of New York (CUNY) in 2007, the goal was to improve retention and outcome rates for full-time students.
To date, the program’s success is undeniable: ASAP students graduate at more than double the rate of non-ASAP students — 52 percent compared with 22 percent — according to CUNY officials. Another striking fact: Students who begin with developmental needs graduate at similar rates to those who begin with proficiency.
Now, CUNY leadership intends to grow the program significantly, from 7,500 students to 25,000 by the academic year 2018–19, says Donna Linderman, dean of Student Success Initiatives and executive director of ASAP. But what has the college learned so far, and how will it carry out the expansion? We take a closer look.
Building on a model that works
“The program model is remaining intact — a structured, full-time degree pathway with blocked classes, consolidated course schedule, intrusive advisement, developmental classes based on need, unlimited metro cards and tuition waivers — the essential ASAP experience is the same,” Linderman says.
Nine community colleges provide ASAP; by the time the program expands, all full-time students who matriculate at Bronx Community College will be enrolled in ASAP, Linderman says.
The expansion will include a heightened but not exclusive focus on STEM, she adds.
A commitment to funding
An undertaking of this size requires a long-term financial commitment from government agencies, and in some cases, private foundations.
“The City of New York has committed $77 million in new funds over the next four years to scale ASAP to 25,000 students,” Linderman says. “These funds will be baselined as a permanent allocation to CUNY in fiscal year 2019 to sustain ASAP at that level.”
If access to public resources is an issue, says Linderman, it’s crucial to look realistically at capacity and see how internal funds can be reallocated. “You can’t do this on the fly.”
Envision how the model will grow
What leads to a successful expansion? Imagining what the program looks like is essential. Planning recruitment, advisement, data collection and evaluation are some of the key areas on which to focus, Linderman has learned.
“Put the time in to understand your model, do planning, put the right staff in place and pay incredibly close attention to details,” Linderman says.
You must also “invest heavily in finding the right key staff,” she adds. “You need advisers who are good at thinking about the whole student. You need the right program manager. A bad hire can be very detrimental to your success.”
And finally, use data to make decisions — that’s at the heart of the expansion’s success. Do you have benchmarks and solid infrastructure on campus to track student progress? “We have a really tight system of monitoring the program, and we’re building out a robust research evaluation agenda,” Linderman says.
Leaders must collaborate
When ASAP began, says Linderman, the then chancellor of CUNY took a strong stand to improve graduation rates. The current chancellor has continued to support that mission through the expansion initiative.
“I think it’s essential for top leadership to establish a specific goal, and it has to be communicated to every single person,” says Linderman.
At the same time, there must be a cohesive relationship between the program director and the academic units at the colleges. CUNY has more than 150 faculty and staff members working in a “highly integrated manner,” Linderman says.
“We are able to be effective through excellent coordination and collaboration at all levels,” she says.
Take a closer look at the ASAP model to see if it’s right for your college or system.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on another successful program at CUNY.